By Brad Schlossman
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Adam Scheel was passed over in the 2017 NHL Draft.
He was passed over for a second time last summer.
Scheel dropped off of the radar of NHL teams and arrived at the University of North Dakota in the fall unheralded, expected to back up Peter Thome as a rookie.
Then, everything changed.
Scheel won the starting goaltending job within a month. He beat four of the country’s top six teams — eventual NCAA national champion Minnesota Duluth, Penrose Cup champion St. Cloud State, MacNaughton Cup champion MSU-Mankato and Frozen Four participant Denver — by Christmas break.
He shut out and swept traditional power Wisconsin and played an exceptional game against rival Minnesota on a big stage in Las Vegas. His goals-against average dipped below 2.00.
And all of the sudden, scouts became interested again. Some altered plans to get a viewing on the 6-foot-3, 197-pound netminder from Lakewood, Ohio.
Others were too late and didn’t get their chance before Scheel went down with a season-ending knee injury Feb. 16 at Western Michigan.
That’s what will make Scheel a wildcard at this weekend’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. It will be Scheel’s third and final year of draft eligibility. Whether he gets picked or not may depend on how many teams saw him before his injury.
Playing with a chip
Scheel isn’t making a big deal out of the draft, though, having been passed over twice already. He’ll be at home with his family near Cleveland, preparing for another season.
“Honestly, not getting picked last year made it that much easier to get to the rink and work that much harder,” Scheel said. “Seeing all of the guys who did get picked over me gave me a chip on my shoulder.”
Scheel, who began skating in early May and is completely healthy again, will take that same attitude into this season, where he’ll compete with Thome and third-string goalie Harrison Feeney for playing time.
“Nothing that happened last year matters,” Scheel said. “It’s a new year, a new start. I’m going to take it the same way I did coming in my freshman year. I think the team has some pretty lofty goals that we can accomplish. No. 1 is winning a national championship, which I think we could do.”
There are a number of elements to Scheel’s game that make him intriguing for scouts.
He has great size at 6-3, 197. He’s efficient in moving around the crease. He’s excellent at playing the puck and putting his defenders in position to quickly get zone exits. He doesn’t get rattled by big moments as evidenced by the Las Vegas game. And he was at his best against top opponents.
“I thought he had a very good season,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “I know it was cut short due to the injury at Western Michigan. But he came in with Peter Thome being a sophomore, knowing that he was going to have to earn everything he got. I thought he did that. He trained hard, practiced hard, waited for his opportunity, and when it came, he did very well.
“When he played at the NTDP, he played behind another goaltender. He didn’t get a lot of reps. For his development, he went and played another year of juniors in Penticton and that only helped him get to where he needed to go. We’re looking for big things out of him during the course of his career at UND.”
Scheel said he was a little disappointed not to get picked in the draft last year, but he got over it quickly.
“The past two years, I learned it doesn’t really matter, especially playing college hockey and seeing how many free agents get signed,” Scheel said. “It’s a different path for everyone. Just because you don’t get drafted, it doesn’t mean you’re not a good player or an elite player or that you’re not going to play in the NHL.
“My goal isn’t to get drafted in the NHL. My goal is to play in the NHL.”